Many people who have an STI (sexually transmissible infection) don’t have symptoms, so may not even know they have one. Testing and using condoms are the best ways to stay in total control of your sexual health. If left untreated some STIs can cause unpleasant symptoms and could lead to long-term problems such as infertility.
It’s a good idea to have regular sexual health check-ups once you start having sex, when you change sexual partners or start a new relationship. You and your partner should get tested before you stop using condoms.
See your doctor if you have had unsafe sex or have symptoms such as pain, discharge or itching in your genital area.
Your doctor, family planning clinic or sexual health clinic can offer STI testing. Having a test is simple and painless.
There is no single test to detect all STIs. Your doctor will ask you about any symptoms and discuss your sexual history. They’ll use the information from your conversation to work out the tests you should have.
STIs such as gonorrhoea and chlamydia, can be detected soon after you have been infected, even if you show no obvious signs. However, some STIs (like HIV) won’t show a positive result as quickly and your doctor will advise you on when to be re-tested.
As a general rule you will have either a urine test, a swab, a blood test or a simple physical examination. The type of test depends on which STI is being treated.
The cost depends on the tests required and where you go. Many clinics offer low-cost or even free testing for young people. Just ask when you make your appointment.
Yes. Doctors are legally obliged to keep information that a patient gives them confidential, regardless of their age. However, if there are issues that raise concerns about patients under the age of 16 then the doctor may take steps to ensure their safety.
The results of STI testing are completely confidential. The results are stored in your medical files. Sexual health clinics normally keep separate records to the files kept by your doctor or local hospital.
If you test positive, you should tell your recent sexual partners so they can be tested too. One of them may have passed it on to you unknowingly. Many clinics will provide you with letters or other ways to help minimise the embarrassment of getting in touch with former partners.
If you test negative to an STI, you still need to protect yourself and your future sexual partners by having safe sex. It is a good idea to have regular tests – remember early diagnosis will help stop the spread and treatment will help stop ongoing health problems from occurring.